Vaccination Campaigns and Fake News: a historic challenge

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Natiele Ilucenski Marques and Emanoelle Aparecida Palangani, two 3rd year medical students at Centro Universitário Ingá (UNINGÁ), Brazil. They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

In 2020 the world faced one of the most serious health crises, caused by a new virus, SARS-CoV-2. However, tackling infectious diseases that have given rise to pandemics is not recent in history, as the world has already faced pandemics that have decimated hundreds of lives, for example, the bubonic plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia Pestis and has plagued the Asian and European continents. SARS-CoV-2, on the other hand, is responsible for causing COVID-19, an acute respiratory disease that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), around the world has claimed more than 1 million lives.

Similar to the past, the lack of specific treatments based on scientific studies makes it even more difficult to control the pandemic. However, nowadays, cutting-edge technologies allow studying the virus from different angles, which facilitates several scientific discoveries. Thus, there was an unprecedented process in world history, vaccine production in a period of 12 to 18 months. In this way, vaccines have become the most accessible and promising hope for humanity, guaranteeing immunity against Coronavirus and less concern with the pandemic and all its implications.

Nevertheless, just as technologies have benefited us with the hope of the vaccine, they have also made it easier to access fake news, which affects a large part of the population, causing fear and distrust about current issues, not leaving out Sars-CoV-2 and your immunization. This compilation of false news was entitled by the World Health Organization (WHO) “infodemic”, which contributes to increased cases and deaths by Covid-19. A quite common example of this fact is the false news that the vaccine can cause disease and even autism, where adverse reactions are confused with the disease, but they occur in much smaller proportions.

Consequently, in addition to the countries facing the shortage of the vaccine, hampered by the high-volume purchase by countries with greater economic power, they also need to demystify several rumors about immunizers. The spread of fake News about vaccines causes low vaccine demand and can, consequently, favor the increase in cases of diseases that had already ceased to be a problem, as well as fail to achieve adequate vaccine coverage to minimize the effects of the pandemic. Since, without a minimum vaccinated population, the production of a vaccine in historical record time becomes irrelevant, minimizing worldwide scientific research.

Therefore, at a time when COVID-19 has already victimized more than 1 million people, all efforts worldwide are needed to combat false news. So, unlike 1343, when technology could not prevent the millions of lives taken by bubonic plague, it can now be effective against COVID-19, as long as human ignorance is overcome, and science is valued.

About the author

Natiele Ilucenski Marques and Emanoelle Aparecida Palangani are two 3rd year medical students at Centro Universitário Ingá (UNINGÁ). Since 2020 they have been active members of IFMSA BRAZIL through the local UNINGÁ committee. They believe that knowledge has the power to change the world. They believe what Charles H. Mayo once said: “There are two goals in medical education: to cure the sick and to promote science.” Natiele and Emanoelle firmly believe that medicine is more than just learning but disseminating acquired knowledge.

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